Snowbound: Kennedy glanced out the window and noticed the closer they came to Octavia, the deeper the December snow piled. “It is pretty here. There are so many tall pines and, dotted with snow, they feel Christmassy.”
“I think you’ll get the Christmas you want this year, complete with a rustic cabin in the woods and lots of snow.” Asher squinted as the early morning sun they’d left in Laurelwood drifted low in the mid-morning sky.
“I can’t wait to decorate the cabin. I hope the rest of the colony coming later remembers to bring all the decorations.” Images of a real, family Christmas had been dancing in her head for weeks. At twenty-four, she was more than due.
Asher glanced at her slyly. “But since they won’t arrive for a couple days, we’ll have that alone time I was talking about.”
Kennedy fisted him in his bicep. “Stop teasing.”
“Oww. That hurt.”
“Poor baby.” Kennedy blew him a kiss. “That will have to do until later.” She ran her fingers through his tousled blonde hair, enjoying the silky feel of it.
“We could stop at the cabin first, you know. We’re making good time.” Asher swept his finger playfully down her nose.
“Tempting, but no. I need to get to the rescue facility and set up.”
“Hang on!” Asher yelled.
At that moment, Kennedy saw what he saw ahead. A very large lynx, speeding out of the snowy forest on her left and into the road. “Holy shit! Don’t hit him!”
Asher slammed on the brakes and the car swayed in the snow-packed road.
“He’s staring at us.” Kennedy’s pulse raced at their near miss. The lynx’s eyes glistened, fastened on her. “Why did he stop in the road?” She couldn’t believe her eyes.
Asher worked to stop the car while swerving, but just as suddenly as it appeared, the huge lynx ran the few steps off the road and quickly disappeared into the forest on the opposing side.
Kennedy watched silently as Asher brought the car to a complete stop just short of a snowdrift along the side of the road. She blew out a long breath. “Geez, that was close.”
Asher reached over the console and hugged her. “Are you all right? That was harried for a minute.”
His arms around her were warm and assuring. It was the gesture that brought tears. She’d been raised to disconnect from emotions and taking care of herself was mandatory, something she’d done from a young age. She prided herself on her strength. But the coldness of the past would always be a part of her, and a caring touch now resonated through her at a deep level of appreciation. She’d stopped resisting tenderness, and her vigilance for the other shoe dropping had diminished, too.
“I’m fine. How are you?” she asked, pulling away. He was what she expected. Asher, unflustered but a seething. “I never saw that guy coming. I’m glad I didn’t hit him.”
“Have you ever seen such a large lynx before?” A visual of a very real, huge lynx hovered in her mind.
“Yeah. Marcus Blue. Killer Marcus.” Kennedy shivered at the thought of the rogue were-lynx who’d been a menace to the colony and a killer. Casey and Michelle, Booker, Lara, Conrad, Asia, Quinn, and Tizzy—each one in the colony, including her and Asher, had suffered under Marcus’s malice.
The Mistletoe Effect: Alex snapped his fingers. That was it! Tess McCall could be the answer to all his problems! He approached her. “I have a huge favor to ask.” Tess watched him cautiously. “Okay…” “Holly wants to adopt Mistletoe.” She smiled, and he felt the brilliance warm his soul. “That’s great! They seem devoted to each other. Mistletoe goes straight to her every time they come to class.” “I don’t know anything about dogs. I need to learn but I want this to be for Christmas.” She crossed her arms. “So what do you want me to do?” “I’d like you to keep Mistletoe until Christmas. Maybe pretend you adopted her. I’d like Holly to learn how to care for a dog, well, and me, too. Maybe we could come help feed her, walk her. I don’t know, just spend some time with her, getting used to her.” Tess studied him. She seemed to do that a lot. Did she find him lacking somehow? Mike had admitted she was reluctant to help him, but had agreed to for Holly’s sake. Maybe he shouldn’t have asked her to help with this. Maybe that was overstepping the bounds of what she was willing to do for them. “I’ll think about it.” Relief rushed through him. “I don’t want to lose Mistletoe. I’ll talk to Mrs. Shull and let her know.” “I haven’t agreed to it yet.” Alex smiled, unable to stop the words before they rushed out. “No, but you will. You care about Holly.”